Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

Saudi bio-bank to shed light on common diseases in the Kingdom

In a bid to improve healthcare services in Saudi Arabia, the King Abdullah International Medical Research Center’s (KAIMRC) large bio-bank project is studying  diseases widespread in the Kingdom.

The bio-bank will collect 200,000 samples from volunteer patients from hospitals and clinics run by the National Guard Health Affairs in Saudi Arabia. The diseases the bio-bank will study will include diabetes, cancer, coronary artery disease, hepatitis, obesity, bronchial asthma, chronic renal impairment and failure, stroke and more. These represent some of the most widespread health risks of the country.

Besides collecting blood, saliva, urine and tissue samples, the bio-bank will also gather and store information from interviews with the volunteers about their lifestyle and physical assessments. KAIMRC has another bank for storage of unbilical cord blood. The Umbilical Cord Blood Bank will be used for stem cell research and to help patients who need cord blood stem cell transplantation.

The large number of consanguineous families in Saudi Arabia makes it a particularly good place to study diseases with a genetic element. Physicians and researchers will use the data collected from the bio-bank to conduct a large-scale study of the combined effects of genes, environment, and lifestyle on these diseases. Besides using the bio-bank to educate people on risk factors for these common diseases and encouraging them to donate specimens, the researchers will also to study disease incidence patterns and develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

The bio-bank’s study is an ongoing effort. There will be annual examinations and reports collected from all living volunteers who have donated samples to the project. These will provide ongoing  information on physical activity, blood pressure, diet, body weight, work environment and hazards, social factors, and personal habits such as smoking.

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